Flight instructors are specially trained individuals authorized to teach students how to fly. Instruction includes practical instruction in the operation of an aircraft, emergency procedures, navigation, radio communication, and more. In addition, there are ground studies that a flight instructor may or may not teach in lieu of a ground instructor. Ground school instruction includes meteorology, aviation law, flight theory, and much more. There are several types of pilot licenses and permits: student, recreational, private, and commercial. There are also several types of ratings that a flight instructor may or may not teach, including multi-engine, instrument, and aerobatic ratings. Many pilots choose to become flight instructors in order to log additional flight time while being paid to do so. Airlines often prefer to hire flight instructors for pilot positions to non-instructors who may have the same amount of flight hours.
Flight instructors who work for flight schools don’t make much money, the hours are irregular and often seasonal which can mean very long days or periods of time without any students to teach, which means making even less money. The work is often tedious, alternated with high stress because you’re working with students who will make mistakes. The job of a flight instructor can be dangerous and thankless, but it’s also necessary.
Most flight schools want candidates with at least a high school diploma or the equivalent. To be a flight instructor, you must have an instructor’s rating. Previous work experience with the public is helpful, as is a background in teaching or training. Flight school instructors must be flexible with their schedule.
There are several levels of instructor ratings, all of which can only be attained after earning a commercial pilot’s license. The highest level permits an instructor to train others who are earning their own instructor rating. Some types of instructor ratings are not required of instructors because the flight school may not be equipped for every rating, particularly for instrument and multi-engine ratings. A basic Certified Flight Instructor rating permits the individual to teach students in pursuit of a recreational, private, or commercial pilot’s license.
Work for flight instructors is often seasonal, and limited to the warmer months and periods of the year when weather is favorable. Schedules typically revolve around the students’ needs, and may require working nights for nighttime instruction.